Surveillance Reports and Metadata

Surveillance Report: Asthma prevalence and hospitalisations (0–14 years) (Mar 2024) Download report PDF
Metadata: Asthma hospitalisations Download report PDF
Metadata: Asthma prevalence Download report PDF

New Zealand has high asthma rates in children compared with other countries

New Zealand has a high prevalence rate of asthma in children than other countries [12]. A small number of children die from asthma each year; in 2018, five children died from asthma in New Zealand [3].

Asthma affects a person’s airways and makes it difficult to breathe. Poor indoor environment conditions have been identified to be associated with the increased risk of developing asthma in children. Second-hand smoke exposure can increase the risk of having asthma and wheeze in children [46] Indoor dampness/mould is also associated with asthma onset and exacerbation in children [79]. Additionally, several studies have found an increase in asthma prevalence or incidence associated with exposure to nitrogen dioxide [10] and transport-related air pollution [11]. Asthma exacerbations can also be triggered by lower respiratory tract infections [12].


The COVID-19 pandemic

In March 2020, the New Zealand Government pursued an elimination strategy for COVID-19. New Zealand moved to Alert Level 4 (Lockdown) on 25 March 2020, along with temporary border closures, quarantine requirements, community testing, school closures, and contact tracing. These public health measures appeared to have affected asthma hospitalisation rates in children aged 0–14 years in 2020 and 2021.


Asthma hospitalisations have increased in 2022

In 2022, there were 7863 hospitalisations in children aged 0–14 years, up from 6022 in 2021 (Figure 1). Furthermore, 2022 saw the highest hospitalisation rates (818.3 per 100,000) in children since 2001. A drop in hospitalisations in 2020 coincided with the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown on 25 March 2020. With the gradual relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, hospitalisation rates have reverted to levels comparable to those seen before the pandemic.

 Figure 1: Number of asthma hospitalisations in children aged 0-14 years, 2001-2022

Information about the data

Asthma hospitalisations

Source: National Minimum Dataset, Ministry of Health

Definition: Acute and semi-acute hospitalisations with asthma (ICD-10AM J45–J46) or wheeze (R06.2) as the primary diagnosis, for children aged 0–14 years.

Asthma prevalence

Source: New Zealand Health Survey, Ministry of Health

Definition: Children aged 2–14 years who have been diagnosed by a doctor as having asthma, and who currently take medication (inhalers, medicine, tablets, pills or other medication) for it.  

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